SHOW REVIEW

Bonnaroo-palooza in Tennessee...

Heat, dust can't squelch festival's cool style...

When The Police kicked into the rapid-fire finale of 'So Lonely', it seemed like the perfect chance for 80,000 fans at Bonnaroo to engage in a mass pogo-dance.

Most at the Bonnaroo Music Festival weren't even born during the heyday of Sting and the gang. To them, pogoing is some dorky dance their parents did back in the days of old.

But at Bonnaroo, which ended Sunday night, a 0 ticket got you nearly four days of music on eight stages - an all-you-can-listen-to buffet that ranged from free-form jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman to the White Stripes, Tool and Wilco. The seventh annual festival sold out, and security guards on horses patrolled the entrance to make sure there were no gate-crashers.

But the guards weren't necessary: The mellow mood at Bonnaroo is more Monterey Pop than Altamont.

(c) The Dallas Morning News by Thor Christensen



The Police storm Bonnaroo Music Festival...

Arya Mirsajedin, a 20-year-old student at the University of Georgia, wasn't even born when The Police released their last studio album in 1983.

But he knew every tune they played Saturday night, and he knew he was witnessing a piece of pop culture history when the rock trio appeared at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.

''My mom is jealous,'' he said.

Fronted by the seemingly ageless Sting, The Police were the headliner for this year's festival, which began Thursday and ended Sunday night. Other big acts included The White Stripes, Tool, Widespread Panic, Wilco, Ben Harper and The Flaming Lips.

Add in the myriad of nonmusical attractions, from movies to comedians to fire eaters, and Bonnaroo took on the air of a carnival midway. The sheer volume and variety of entertainment was overwhelming.

As Ziggy Marley channeled his late father, reggae legend Bob Marley, on one of the big stages, three burlesque dancers performed a PG-13-style striptease in the ''Bonna Rouge'' tent and footage of Jimi Hendrix smashing his guitar to pieces played during the ''Monterey Pop'' film playing in the cinema.

There was an air-conditioned jazz club where patrons sat at candlelit tables, a real luxury given the Port-a-Potties and makeshift showers outside. A few dozen revelers wearing headphones danced at the ''Silent Disco'' - a strange sight even for this place, where the strange is common. The whole festival smelled of cooking grease, cigarette smoke and sweat.

''There's a little of everything here. It's like a small country,'' Juan Rosales remarked as he stood shirtless and took it all in.

Rosales, 21, of Gainesville, Ga., had read about Bonnaroo and seen pictures of it, but experiencing it for himself was something else entirely. He had wanted to make the trip since the festival started six years ago but couldn't afford it.

''Now that I've come, I know to start saving this year for next year,'' he said.

No one could escape the heat, though everyone tried. People slept in whatever shade they could find and guzzled bottled water and cold beer. Clouds of dust billowed from the parched ground, causing many to tie scarves around their mouths and noses like Old West train robbers.

''We could really use some rain,'' said Bonnie Bronson, a 34-year-old waitress from Suffolk, Va., as she stood with wet hair outside a large trailer where people washed up and filled bottles and jugs with water.

''The heat with the dust makes it hard to breath. But everyone is having a good time,'' added her friend, Jason Smith, a 30-year-old brick mason.

All 80,000 tickets were sold.

As of Sunday morning, there had been one death, 25-year-old Cody L. Conover of Lancaster, Ky. Authorities say it will probably be several weeks before they know the cause, but they are looking into drugs and heat as possibilities.

Neither the heat nor the dust mattered much to Mirsajedin as he waited for The Police. He has all the group's music on vinyl.

''I probably would have come anyway,'' he said, ''but when I heard The Police were going to be here, it sealed the deal.''

(c) Associated Press by John Gerome



The Police, Ween, Flaming Lips Star At Bonnaroo...

The Police's first festival appearance since reuniting last month and performances by Ween and the Flaming Lips highlighted the Saturday (June 16) bill at the Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tenn. The Police stormed through 18 songs from throughout their catalog of hits, a number of which featured different tempos and arrangements compared to their studio predecessors.

The set was largely similar to the one the group has been playing lately at North American arenas, although 'Spirits in the Material World' and 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' did not appear. The group was at its best on the more up-tempo material, particularly 'Synchronicity II,' a long jam on 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' and 'Can't Stand Losing You,' which included elements of the instrumental 'Reggatta de Blanc.'

Several songs were transformed or extended; 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' demonstrated the trio's instrumental chops but also its handle on atmospherics when it simmered to a hushed breakdown. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' took on a more reggae feel minus the synths and piano of its studio version and a stripped-down 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' featured a variety of percussion from drummer Stewart Copeland.

In the late afternoon at the This Tent, Ween slayed a packed audience with a 24-song set of at times overpoweringly psychedelic, uniquely strange rock'n'roll. Beyond fan favorites such as 'Voodoo Lady,' 'Baby Bitch,' 'Bananas and Blow' and 'Ocean Man,' the group also played two new songs expected to appear on a new album in September: a mellow, dark number about a dinner party and a bizarre instrumental with a fake ending that sounded like a vintage game show theme.

The Flaming Lips brought their full theatrical arsenal to a post-midnight set at the Which Stage, including frontman Wayne Coyne sealed inside a giant bubble and repeated explosions of confetti. Coyne was refreshingly sincere when telling the audience how much they mean to the band, but also took the U.S. to task for perpetuating the Iraq War prior to 'Waitin' for a Superman.' Right when the Police finished, the Lips attempted to begin their performance nearly a full hour early with a cover of Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs,' but were made to stop playing until their posted time.

The early portion of Saturday also featured noteworthy sets from Gogol Bordello, whose colorful members played a crazed mix of gypsy music and rock best heard on tracks like 'Stop Wearing Purple' and 'Think Locally F*ck Globally.' Minneapolis' the Hold Steady rocked up cuts like 'Party Pit' and 'Hot Soft Light,' while frontman Craig Finn bashed the New York Yankees in an attempted show of crowd unity that didn't involve politics.

Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice played his afternoon set on the Which Stage in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, but what he lacked in weather-appropriate attire, he more than made up for with a host of cutting essays on love and relationships ('Me, My Yoke and I,' 'Rootless Tree,' 'Dogs').

Post-Police, the evening rolled into the wee hours with Galactic (a set featuring rappers like the Coup's Boots Riley and Lateef the Truth Speaker, who appear on the band's upcoming album), superstar DJs Sasha & Digweed and Girl Talk, who delivered an irresistible dance party in the Other Tent.

As usual, the stage was flooded with dancers from the audience while mainman Gregg Gillis mashed up all manner of Billboard pop and rap hits with each other as well as vintage rock tracks. Among the most crowd-pleasing combos were Tag Team's 'Whoomp! There It Is' and Big Country's 'In a Big Country,' Kelis' 'Milkshake' with Guns N' Roses' cover of Nazareth's 'Hair of the Dog,' Daft Punk's 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger' and the Cranberries' 'Dreams' and a finale of Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Juicy' with Elton John's 'Tiny Dancer.'

Keeping with the festival's collaborative spirit, Ziggy Marley guested during Ben Harper's mainstage set and Gov't Mule welcomed John Paul Jones, Bob Weir and Luther Dickinson during its post-midnight gig in the This Tent.

At least one band didn't make it to its scheduled Bonnaroo performance: Fiction Plane, fronted by Sting's son Joe Sumner, was stranded in Houston following a gig in Las Vegas and had to scrap its planned set just before the Police in the Blue Room.

Bonnaroo wraps tonight with performances by Wilco, the White Stripes, Ornette Coleman and Widespread Panic.

(c) Billboard by Jonathan Cohen



Bonnaroo: The Police - Vital and Experimental...

Of course the reunited Police belonged at Bonnaroo, the festival built on jam bands. What disappeared when the band broke up in 1983 was a chance to hear the interaction of three musicians whose blend and friction forged one of rock's most original ensemble sounds. They left behind terse, neatly arranged studio albums and a few live recordings. Now, on tour again, they are jamming the alternatives. Their Bonnaroo set interspersed familiar arrangements with new ones, often within the same song. There were sparks, teases, intriguing excursions and a few misfires, but the Police sounded vital, still fascinated by Sting's songs and ready to tear into them anew.

It was the same set list, more or less, that they have been playing on their current arena tour, and the 100-minute set was 50 minutes shorter than the Bonnaroo schedule promised.

Sting's songs about loneliness, breakups and a growing social conscience have held up well. And as a band, the Police have their old strengths: Sting's springy bass lines and his reedy, fervent, undiminished voice; Stewart Copeland's drumming, with its mixture of thwacking propulsion and flurries of jazzy detail; Andy Summers' resourceful guitar parts creating all the harmony with watercolor transparency. They can charge into a song like 'Message in a Bottle' - with not just a fast beat but little flickering cymbal counterpoints - or disassemble and reassemble it, as they did with 'The Bed's Too Big Without You'. Some songs, like 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', were rebuilt entirely; others, like 'Roxanne', metamorphosed in and out of the hit version.

Every so often, Mr. Summers stepped forward - as he never did on the Police's studio arrangements - for an extended, bluesy guitar solo, as he did to stoke 'Driven To Tears'. In 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around', Sting abandoned his recorded bass line to improvise high-speed, jazzy countermelodies while he and Mr. Summers stood shoulder to shoulder. Not every remake was an improvement; 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' grew too relaxed. But 'Walking in Your Footsteps' worked multiple variations on its old self, and 'Walking On The Moon' plunged deeper into its reggae groove.

Like other reunited bands, the Police could easily have copied the versions of their songs that everyone remembers. But as musicians, they'd rather jam a little.

(c) The New York Times by Jon Pareles



Bonnaroo fans turned on the red light. And blue. And green...

These were the colors of glo-sticks crisscrossing the air signaling the return of The Police, the British power trio reuniting before 80,000 fans Saturday night (June 16). The band's 100-minute, 17-song set was designed as the dramatic peak of this four-day festival, but the setting was strict economy. Unlike the Flaming Lips, Tool and other spectacle-minded headliners that commanded the festival's largest stages this weekend, The Police featured just three musicians and a history of hits. While the majority of veteran band reunions of recent memory tread through the past with the cautious touch of a museum custodian, The Police strove to find new ways to approach old songs. As reassuring as it was seeing such familiar faces, the band played with a strict ear for inventiveness and a renewed sense of play.

A glance at the day's schedule would suggest that The Police and Widespread Panic don't have much in common except adjoining time slots. That would be wrong. The Police riffed on most of their songs, introducing new beginnings, unexpected endings while stretching the middles too. Sting brought celebrity (yes ladies, he took off his shirt) but he also bowed to guitarist Andy Summers who spiked songs with exploratory solos that released them in new directions.

Drummer Stewart Copeland alternated between sitting before a drumkit and standing before an exotic assemblage of percussion, from a gong to vibes to a collection of miniature cymbals. Everything got hit in Copeland's drive to keep switching meters from sloppy punk to strict reggae. Some songs were recognizable by just their lyrics ('Everything She Does Is Magic'), others got shaved down to a firm reggae core ('Bed's Too Big Without You') while others bounced through many variations ('Can't Stand Losing You', 'So Lonely'). Despite the change-ups, the music held to a single thread of restlessness.

The Police's reputation for violent backstage antics and competitive infighting is well documented, but this outing appeared to be one of affection. Sting interjected his bandmates' names into lyrics, often huddling with Summers at the foot of Copeland's bass drum. This being a jam fest crowd, he also encouraged a mass dialogue, even if it meant singing 'De Do Do Do' and requiring the crowd to reply, 'De Da Da Da'.

Crashing expectations could have been Saturday's unofficial theme. Unlike the dominance of dance-oriented, dreadlocked and wiggle-heavy bands that played Friday, the slate of Saturday headliners connected through the strength of their songwriting.

Fountains of Wayne played a debut Bonnaroo set of slick power pop with interjections of roots country. The band also trumped the comics at the stand-up tent just a few yards away. An example: ''We were going to guest with our friend Kenny Chesney but we don't know him,'' said bassist Adam Schlesinger ''He had to go suck somewhere else instead,'' added guitarist-singer Chris Collingwood.

Other bands of the day proved larger than life - or at least, mightier than the clubs they typically find themselves playing.

If Bruce Springsteen was a librarian in Hackensack, he might be Craig Finn, the lead singer of the Hold Steady, a band that played a set full of rousing flourishes and manic energy to an overflow crowd. Scottish band Franz Ferdinand brought a nightclub spirit to the daytime with their stomping, insistent dance pop that ignited a sea of bodies to bounce in rhythm.

The most reliable Bonnaroo sets of the day came courtesy of Ben Harper and The Flaming Lips. Harper (with partner Laura Dern watching from the wings) played with a lap steel guitar on his lap, his songs countering his firebrand guitar skills with his sweet, fragile vocals.

Anyone who has seen the Flaming Lips knows the routine. But at midnight, a time when about everyone starts to realize their lungs are caked in dust, the circus revelry of this band's live show became a welcome release. The Lips last played Bonnaroo in 2003 under a tent. This was essentially the same set, except super-sized on a large stage. The band arrived via a circular lighting rig that lowered to the ground like a spaceship. The last to step out was frontman Wayne Coyne who proceeded to enter the crowd while walking inside a clear, plastic bubble. It lasted half a song, but that was enough. Even if the tricks are, by now, old, the band's cartoon humor and homespun antics still charm.

Bonnaroo at this point means hygiene is negotiable and bodies quiver earlier in the day. Day and night become interchangeable, especially when music stretches past 3 a.m. and you can buy a breakfast burrito just before midnight. This is a crowd that takes it all in stride by digging straight in. Strangers nap near one another and the sudden urge to purchase and apply body paint is inevitable. Of course food vendors see the unwashed masses as, well, unwashed masses - after all, young 'uns imbued with too many chemicals while carrying too much cash could put your kids through college. So it is why pizza slices cost $4 each and they can't be plopped on the paper plate fast enough.

Maybe the most egregious example of this came as a sound heard early in the afternoon, a time when most people were just starting their day. As concertgoers shuffled between stages, the beer vendors announced cold drafts for sale. Except no words were used. They hit cowbells.

(c) HARP by Mark Guarino

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